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The Synergism of Telecommuting and Office Automation

A company's sales workforce must be able to present their products and services using state-of-the-art personal computer technology. To communicate effectively with the company's main office, a salesforce working in the field must also be able to collect and transmit order data from remote locations. The authors studied how a company combined salesforce automation with a telecommuting program to create two new business strategies designed to improve organizational performance.

The authors not only describe a successful "telework" program, but they also provide a framework for conducting a cost/benefit analysis. They conclude that the start-up cost of the telework program was high because the IT infrastructure was not current; however, the direct costs and savings offset each other within 3 to 4 years. In addition, they report that ongoing costs declined rapidly, depending on the number of new teleworkers joining the organization.

The telework program enhanced accountability because the new software applications allowed managers greater oversight of employee activities. Productivity also increased. After learning how to increase the speed and accuracy of internal operations, the salesforce spent more time with customers and generated more sales. By integrating0 technology into business processes, the telecommuting program also spurred organizational adjustments and cultural change. Gradually, business managers adjusted policies and procedures to conform to the program's technical and business needs. They shifted from managing by attendance to managing by results, which depended on a reliable IT infrastructure and technical tools for communicating with their employees.

The telework program quickened the pace of IT adoption at this company by linking IT improvements to the organization's mission and survival. This mobilized the salesforce, the information systems staff, and middle managers to adapt to and accept the new business environment.

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